Guide: EU Passenger Rights and Flight Delay Compensation

In this guide, we explain what your rights are as airline passenger in the European Union (EU) and whether you are entitled to compensation if you have a flight delay.

EU passenger rights regulation

In the European Union, passenger rights are enshrined in a regulation called EC/261. Fully known as (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, this regulation does not only detail your rights as an airline passenger, but also outlines the obligations which airlines have.

In the above link you can find the full text of the regulation, which is available in every single language of each EU member state. This text can however be a bit lawyerish to read and hard to comprehend for those uninitiated into aviation specifics and law.

We therefore recommend you to first read our introduction into EU passenger rights and compensation before reading the specifics about flight delay compensation below.


If you fly in Europe or with an European airline, you may be entitled to both care (free meal, hotel etc.) and monetary compensation in case you have a significant delay.

It is however a must to check whether you qualify for both in the first place, as in some cases your flight might not fall under the EC/261 Regulation.

Paid ticket

First of all, EC/261 applies only to passengers with a fully confirmed reservation for your flight, which means that you need to have an e-ticket (or old-fashioned paper ticket) issued.

It does not matter whether you have paid for your ticket with cash or frequent flyer miles, or whether you fly business class or on a heavily discounted economy class ticket.

Do however note that passengers travelling free of charge or at a special reduced fare not publicly available (such as airline employee tickets) do not fall under EC/261.

To which flights and airlines does EC/261 apply?

Second, it is important to check whether your flight meets the geographical requirements set out by EC/261. Your flight is covered by the EC/261 regulation if it meets at least one of the following two requirements:

1) Your flight is departing from an airport inside the European Union, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.
2) Your flight is arriving at an airport in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland and is operated by an airline from one of these countries.

The fact that Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are included is because these countries are part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and thus are forced to apply EU regulations, in case you wondered.

united airlines plane
Even non-EU airlines such as United Airlines can be subject to EU passenger rights and compensation regulation. ©Paliparan

Some examples

Let’s take a look at a few practical examples to see when your flight is covered by EC/261, and when not.

– A Ryanair flight from Brussels to Madrid is fully covered by EC/261 as it departs from an European airport.

– A SAS Scandinavian Airlines flight from New York to Oslo is covered by EC/261 as it arrives at an airport in the European Economic Area (EEA) and is operated by an EEA airline (SAS is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden).

– A flight of United Airlines from New York to Oslo would on the other not fall under EC/261 as it is operated by a non-EU airline. On the other hand, flying United the other way around from Oslo to New York does fall under EC/261 as it would depart from an EU/EEA airport.

Duty of care and compensation

According to EC/261, passengers have the right to compensation and duty of care if their flight is delayed by a certain amount of time.

The moment when the duty of care and compensation provisions are triggered is dependent on flight distance and on the exact length of the delay measured from the scheduled time of departure.


There are three categories of flights as specified by EC/261. These are:

a) Short haul: Flights of 1,500 kilometres or less.
b) Medium haul (mid-haul): Flights within the European Economic Area of more than 1,500 kilometres and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres.
c) Long haul: All other flights not falling under (a) and (b).

The distances are calculated as the crow flies, i.e. the most direct path between two points. You can use tools such as the online calculator on Travelmath to check the distance between your starting point and destination.

What matters is the distance between the airports you fly to and not between the cities. When flying Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) to London Heathrow (LHR) you must check the distance between the airports in question and not the distance between downtown Stockholm and London.

Duty of care

Whatever the reason is behind a delay, an airline always has a duty of care to its passengers. Duty of care provisions are triggered when the delay is at least two hours for short-haul flights, three hours for mid-haul flights and four hours for long-haul flights.

What does duty of care involve?

According to EC/261, duty of care consists out of:

1) Meals & drinks. An airline should offer the delayed passenger something to eat and drink “in reasonable proportion to the waiting time”. This means that while a voucher for a snack and a drink might be sufficient for a short-haul flight which is delayed by two hours, a voucher for a full meal can be expected when the flight is delayed by five hours.
2) Communications. A passenger has the right to make two phone calls, telex or fax messages, or be given access to the internet to send two emails. Most airlines will hand out a telephone card or WiFi voucher if you inquire about this.
3) Accommodation. If the delay is so long that a flight has been moved to the following day, a passenger has the right to a hotel and to transport from the airport to your accommodation, and back again to the airport.

All these duty of care provisions exist irrespective of the reason behind the delay. Whether it is an airplane malfunction or a sudden storm disrupting traffic – airlines always have the duty of care whether they are directly to blame for the delay or cannot do anything about it!

check in desks terminal athens airport flight delay compensation
If your flight is delayed by a substantial amount of time, the airline will have a duty of care and needs to arrange or reimburse food and drinks, as well as a hotel if the delay is overnight. ©Paliparan


Good airlines which respect passenger rights will automatically inform their passengers about all of this and make sure that arrangements are in place.

When there is a long delay, they might pro-actively hand out drinks and snacks to passengers waiting at the gate area or give vouchers which can be used at any airport café or restaurant.

They will also arrange a hotel for you if the delay is so long that the flight is pushed back to the next day. Sometimes you would have to approach an airline employee for this, although it increasingly happens these days that you are automatically informed of the arrangements in place by email or text message.

It can happen that an airline might simply not have any employees on the ground to hand out vouchers or to assist with hotel bookings. Although this is unlikely at a major hub of the airline, it is certainly possible at a small airport which only has one daily flight by your airline.

If you face a delay, it is therefore always a plus to stay connected to the internet and a mobile phone network so that you can be reached by the airline or can easily contact them yourself if there is no ground staff available to assist you. In some cases contacting an airline by phone might even be quicker than waiting in the queue at an airport!

Unfortunately, some airlines still try to escape their duty of care obligations altogether in an attempt to save money. In such cases, you can make food or accommodation arrangements yourself. You should keep the receipt and file a claim with the airline asking for reimbursement of the costs.


Duty of care provisions are always based on what is considered to be “reasonable”. If you short-haul flight is only delayed for two-and-a-half hours, a snack and a drink might be considered as more “reasonable” than buying a full meal at the most expensive airport restaurant.

A 25 EUR lunch with a drink will probably not cause any problem if you ask the airline to reimburse this. However, remember that EC/261 is not a carte blanche to splurge – a 150 EUR lunch bill including a good bottle of red will certainly not be deemed as “reasonable” by the airline. A request to reimburse this will most likely be denied.

In any case, you should always approach an airline first and inquire about EC/261 duty of care provisions. Only when there is nobody around  to help you with this, or if such a request is denied by ground staff, you can make your arrangements and try to claim back the costs at a later point.

beer bourguignon air france
In case of a long delay, airlines have a duty of care obligation and will need to give provide food and drinks or hand out vouchers which you can use at an airport restaurant. ©Paliparan

Who arranges the hotel?

The same counts for overnight accommodation in case this is needed. An airline will most likely book a hotel for you in case your flight is delayed to the next day. They have arrangements in place with major hotel chains for such circumstances and are accustomed when it comes to arranging such bookings for hundreds of passengers at the same time.

You should definitely check first with the airline if they can arrange a hotel for you, before you book something yourself!

It can however happen that an airline is not in a position to assist you with arranging a hotel or that they flat-out deny that you have the right to a room. In this case, you can book a hotel yourself, but you should again take the “reasonable” bit into account.

That doesn’t mean you should stay in a dirty, poorly rated 25 EUR a night motel. It is perfectly reasonable to book a 4* hotel, even if it might cost 150 EUR per night.

However, opting for a full suite when standard rooms are available, or splurging on a 600 EUR five-star hotel when decent 4* options are available might not be considered as “reasonable” under the EC/261 Regulation.

Hotel thoughts

Note that EC/261 is a regulation and not a hard law code. Although it does spell out your rights as a passenger and the obligations of an airline, it does not specify whether your hotel should be a cheap Travelodge or ibis hotel, or a luxury Sofitel or Hyatt.

If an airline arranges the hotel for you – they can basically decide unilaterally which hotel you will get.

Generally speaking, most full-service airlines will always take the passenger type into account when arranging a hotel. Those flying in first or business class, as well as those holding the highest status in an airline’s frequent flyer programme will most often be booked in better hotels than economy passengers.

If you are unhappy with the arrangements made by the airline, you can of course always book something yourself. Do however note that the airline will have zero obligations to reimburse a better hotel for you just because you aren’t satisfied with the accommodation they assigned you.

If you do need to make arrangements yourself as the airline is unable or unwilling to do so, it is important to take the costs into account if you are hoping for the airline to reimburse it.

When there are 100 EUR/night hotels available, most airlines (especially the low-cost ones!) will not think it is reasonable if you end up booking yourself a 5* hotel for 200 EUR a night. That said, if you have a business class ticket and/or have a high frequent flyer status with the airline, you may easily get away with it!

It counts the other way around as well. When there are no 100 EUR/night hotels available, that doesn’t mean that low-cost airlines suddenly don’t have a duty of care anymore and they shouldn’t pay for a more expensive hotel if those still have available rooms! In such a case, that expensive room might still be deemed as “reasonable” if it was the only available option.

When booking a hotel, definitely take common sense into account, as well as the airline you are flying with.

Exceptions to the duty of care principle

There is a notable exception in which case duty of care does not apply. If the delayed flight is departing from your home airport, you might not be eligible for a free hotel in case the flight is rescheduled to the next day. The airline will simply assume that you can easily travel back to your home to sleep in the comfort of your own bed.

If that is the case, you could probably still claim a meal voucher (or reimbursement of meal costs) if you have to wait for a long time at the airport for flight information. You might also be able to get the costs reimbursed for transport to return home and get back again to the airport the next day to catch your delayed flight.

Again, the keyword is “reasonable”. If you are flying out of Athens and live in the city itself, the airline will assume you can easily travel back home by car or public transport (the airline will have your home address on record, after all, as most of the times you have to give this information during the booking process).

If you are however living in the Peloponnese a full five-hour drive away from Athens Airport, it is not exactly reasonable to drive home for the night and get back again to Athens Airport the following day. In this case you should definitely try to claim a hotel room for the night (in case it is not already proactively provided).

ramada wyndham podgorica
In case of a long (overnight) flight delay, you are entitled to a hotel room. ©Paliparan

Delay compensation

Now on to the more interesting part: compensation! EC/261 provides that in some cases, you are eligible for compensation if your flight is delayed. What matters is again the length of your flight and the duration of the delay, which should be at least three hours.

The delay is calculated by comparing your original scheduled arrival time with your actual arrival time at your destination airport. The delay upon departure is completely irrelevant – it is arrival time which counts! Use websites like Flightradar24Flightaware or airport websites to check official arrival times and do not (solely) rely on your own watch.

Calculating your compensation

As we already wrote before, there are three categories of flights specified by EC/261. We will list the categories again below, this time with the amount of compensation added.

a) Short haul: Flights of 1,500 kilometres or less. Compensation: 250 EUR.
b) Medium haul (mid-haul): Flights within the European Economic Area of more than 1,500 kilometres and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres. Compensation: 400 EUR.
c) Long haul: All other flights not falling under (a) and (b). Compensation: 600 EUR.

The distances are calculated as the crow flies, i.e. the most direct path between two points. You can use tools such as the calculator on Travelmath to check the distance between your starting point and destination. Again, it’s about the distance between two airports and not between two cities!


You are on a flight from Madrid to Rome, which is set to arrive at 4pm. Your flight has a delay of three-and-a-half hours upon departure, but you make up some time in the air and end up arriving in Rome at 6.55pm. As the delay is 2 hours, 55 minutes – you don’t have the right to compensation. It’s arrival times which count!

A flight from Lisbon to Istanbul is scheduled to arrive at 3pm. You arrive instead at 9pm. A six-hour delay is well over the minimum three-hour delay required. Lisbon to Istanbul is 2,016 miles – which means that you will receive 400 EUR given that the distance between the two airports falls under category b).

Reduced liability

In case of a long flight delay, it may happen that an airline proactively rebooks you on another flight to your destination. If your new flight:

a) Arrives no later than two hours after your original scheduled arrival time (in the category of flights of 1,500 kilometres or less); or
b) Arrives no later than three hours in case of flights within the European Economic Area of more than 1,500 kilometres and all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kilometres; or
c) Arrives no later than four hours for all other flights not falling under (a) and (b).

Then the airline can reduce the aforementioned compensation by 50 percent.


You have a flight from Stockholm (scheduled departure time 11am) to Vienna (scheduled arrival time 1pm). However, it is delayed by five hours. Fortunately, the airline rebooks you on another flight. You arrive in Vienna at 2.30pm.

As the flight Stockholm-Vienna is 1,286 kilometres, it falls under category a). As you arrive within the two-hour margin after your original scheduled arrival time, the airline can reduce the normal compensation of 250 EUR by 50 percent, meaning that you will only receive 125 EUR.

If your rebooked flight would have theoretically arrived later than 3pm, the airline would still need to pay the full amount of 250 EUR. The same would count for a passenger who is not rebooked and still takes the original flight, arriving five hours later at 6pm.

munich airport terminal 1 flight delay compensation
When calculating the duration of the delay, it is the arrival time which matters, and not the delay upon departure! ©Paliparan

Airline offer

It can happen that the airline might pro-actively offer you another form of compensation in case your flight is delayed or when you are asked whether you would be OK with being rebooked on an alternative flight. Some airlines might for example notify passengers that they can receive a travel voucher worth a certain amount of money in case of a delay.

Before accepting this, first check the conditions whether or not such a voucher might free the airline of their obligation to pay EC/261 compensation. Many airlines prefer to hand out a 250 EUR travel credit for a future flight than 250 EUR cash – as the first option works out significantly better for their own wallet.

You have the freedom to decide yourself whether you accept such an offer or not. In case of 250 EUR cash vs. a 250 EUR travel credit, I would personally always opt for cash as it is much more flexible. That said, an airline can easily give you a much higher amount in vouchers (let’s say a 400 EUR flight voucher versus 250 EUR cash) – which might be more attractive than cash for some passengers.

If a voucher sounds more attractive to you than cash, check the full terms and conditions when and how you can use the travel credit. It is very common for such travel vouchers to have certain limitations. For example, an airline can have the condition that the voucher must be used to book a new ticket within the next 9 months.

That said, if you are flexible and think you will be able to use such a travel credit to your advantage, such airline offers can be extremely worthwhile as you may be able to score something of a higher value than your initial compensation according to EC/261.

Accepting a travel voucher instead of compensation does not free the airline of its duty of care obligations.

Delay reason

Unlike duty of care, where the reason for the delay plays no role as you are always entitled to it if the delay is long enough, the delay reason plays a major role when it comes to compensation.

There are a number of delay reasons which free the airline from any obligation to pay compensation to its passengers. Basically, if the delay is the airline’s fault, it has to pay compensation. If however extraordinary circumstances are to blame, the airline is off the hook.

Examples of extraordinary circumstances

When it comes to extraordinary circumstances, you have to think about situations which the airline has no control over. These are the most common extraordinary circumstances:

– Sudden adverse weather conditions (for example a storm)
– Security risks (bomb threats, terror scares, unruly passengers)
– Political instability (longer flight path to avoid passage over unsafe airspace)
– Sudden diversion for medical or safety reasons

In all of these cases, you will not get any EC/261 compensation, although remember that the airline may still have a duty of care obligation if your delay is long enough.

There are a number of other potential reasons behind a delay which may or may not constitute extraordinary circumstances. We will list the most common ones below and go shortly through them.

sas svalbard spitsbergen
The skies may be clear for now, but a sudden winter storm could easily create havoc and long delays. In case of a big delay due to sudden adverse weather, the airline does not have to pay EC/261 compensation but does have a duty of care. ©Paliparan


If a flight is delayed by a strike, it depends who is actually striking whether or not it constitutes extraordinary circumstances.

When air traffic control or airport staff (ground handling, baggage control, security staff, police manning passport control booths) are on strike, then the airline is off the hook and does not need to pay EC/261 delay compensation. All these functions are vital to flight operations and beyond the airline’s control, as those employees are not employed by the airline but by other companies or the government.

However, if the airline’s own personnel (cabin crew, pilots etc.) is going on strike resulting in cancelled or delayed flights – this is considered to be within the full control of the airline as management could have prevented such an internal dispute.

The exception is a national strike in which airline personnel takes part, as the strike is then not limited to the airline and thus seen as an extraordinary circumstance.

Technical problems

Principally, ‘ordinary’ technical issues are certainly not part of extraordinary circumstances. For example, if a pre-flight check finds that a faulty part needs to be replaced on your plane and you end up arriving over three hours late at your destination, the airline will need to pay EC/261 compensation.

The same counts when the aircraft originally planned to operate your flight has gone tech (requires maintenance) and you are put on a replacement aircraft which might take a long while for the airline to find and to move all passengers into the replacement plane. In this case the airline is also fully liable.

However, technical problems due to sabotage or terrorism are definitely extraordinary circumstances. If an airline manufacturer (or aviation authorities) suddenly issues a request or order to ground all planes of a certain type for an urgent review after a hidden defect is discovered, this would also count as extraordinary circumstances.

A bird strike (a bird ends up in an engine and the plane is forced to make an emergency landing for repairs) is also an extraordinary circumstance.

In practice, it means that mechanical problems are unlikely to constitute extraordinary circumstances and in most cases these would be fully covered by EC/261.

Operational problems

Let’s take for example the issue of the Boeing 737 Max groundings. The moment when aviation authorities ordered airlines around the world to ground the planes after major design flaws were discovered following the two crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, this clearly constituted extraordinary circumstances on that day.

Needless to say, this caused some long-term planning problems for a lot of airlines who are dependent on the 737 Max to operate some of their flights. There have been airlines which blamed the 737 Max groundings for delays and cancellations in the months afterwards, as they did not have enough planes to operate all their flights.

That clearly is not a technical problem (as the groundings were announced months earlier) but is an operational issue of the airline being unable to operate all its flights according to schedule.

This means that you have the full right to EC/261 compensation in such a case, as by now the grounding of the planes are no longer extraordinary circumstances. After all, the airline could have easily leased replacement planes or curtailed its flight schedule way in advance if they already knew they were short on aircraft to operate all their flights.

Other operational problems

There are a whole lot more of potential operational reasons behind a flight delay which airlines are highly reluctant to admit are fully within their control. They will often cite extraordinary circumstances when in fact they can only blame themselves and are fully on the hook for EC/261 compensation.

A flight delay because the airline needs to find a last-minute replacement for a sick flight attendant? That’s a classical operational problem and eligible for EC/261 compensation, given that any airline should always have replacement staff on stand-by!

A delay because the pilots have maxed out on their flying hours and must first legally rest a number of hours as required by law before they can operate another flight? Operation problems and eligible for EC/261 compensation.

munich paris air france flight
Always check what the reason is behind a delay. ©Paliparan

Knock-on effects

Airlines use complicated schedules to operate their flights. A plane might for example be scheduled to first operate an Amsterdam-Athens-Amsterdam flight in the morning, followed by Amsterdam – Lisbon – Amsterdam in the afternoon.

Let’s say for example that due to heavy fog in the early morning, the Amsterdam to Athens flight is significantly delayed by four hours. Weather conditions are seen as extraordinary circumstances so passengers on the Amsterdam to Athens flight (and even the Athens-Amsterdam return) can forget about any EC/261 compensation.

If also the Amsterdam-Lisbon flight is delayed by four hours due to the plane arriving late from Athens, this is known in the airline industry as a knock-on effect. A secondary, indirect, or cumulative effect which is not directly related to the original problem.

Passengers on the Amsterdam-Lisbon flight would be fully eligible for EC/261 compensation. There are airlines who try to escape their responsibility by saying this flight was “delayed due to adverse weather”. However, the adverse weather did only apply to the first Amsterdam-Athens-Amsterdam flight.

What we have here is again a classic example of operational problems. The airline could for example have used another plane and crew to operate the Amsterdam-Lisbon flight. According to recent European court decisions, such knock-on effects do not constitute extraordinary circumstances.

Gather information

It is always a good idea to gather as much information as you can about your delay. This is especially true when you are flying with an airline notorious for dodging its EC/261 obligations, as in such cases you will need to be pro-active and should not wait for the airline to hand out duty of care or compensation on a silver plate.

If your flight is delayed, check not only what airport monitors say, but inquire with the gate agents as well. They could be as clueless as you about a delay, but sometimes they have more information, predictions, or know the exact cause of the delay.

Checking your flight number on websites like Flightradar24 or Flightaware is also a good idea, especially if you already know which aircraft is operating your flight.

For example, if you are set to fly on Air France from Istanbul to Paris, you can track the incoming aircraft flying Paris to Istanbul on these websites. If your flight has a delay posted of only 30 minutes on the airport monitors, but you see that the aircraft has only just left Paris – you know that you are likely in for a much longer delay!

Note that this does only work at outstations as there is no real way of telling which plane is operating your flight when departing from a hub where the airline has many more planes available.

Checking weather forecasts

In the same way it is good to check weather conditions, both at your own departure airport and at the destination airport. This is not only a good idea to get a prediction of possible delays, but also to check whether an airline quoting weather-related “extraordinary circumstances” behind a delay is indeed telling the truth.

If you are again set to fly Istanbul to Paris, but the airline communicates that this will be delayed by three hours due to bad weather in Paris which caused the Paris-Istanbul flight to be delayed – you can easily verify if this is true.

You can check Paris weather forecasts as well as current flight departures from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. If all flights are delayed around a certain time, you know that this could be indeed due to sudden fog or adverse weather.

However, if only the Paris to Istanbul flight is delayed while all other flights seem to be taking off on time, you know that the story doesn’t hold up and that the airline may be lying to you to escape EC/261 obligations!

That said, there can be legit reasons why your aircraft has a delay while other airlines managed to operate their flights on time. When there are high winds or a storm, large aircraft might still be able to take off while small turboprop planes might be grounded. In that case, it might be logical that your flight on a small Dash-8 turboprop has a delay while a large Airbus A330 might still be flying.

As you can see, the world of delays and EC/261 compensation is not black-and-white!

ionanna airport olympic flight delay compensation
Flights on small (propeller) aircraft are usually more prone to delays because of bad weather. ©Paliparan

Flight connections

So far we have only looked at simple one-way flights when it comes to the EC/261 regulation. However, a great amount of passengers are actually travelling on connecting flights. For example, you might be booked on a ticket Venice-Paris-Copenhagen, all on Air France. Your scheduled arrival time in Copenhagen is 4pm.

In this case, what matters is the arrival time at your final destination (Copenhagen) – and not your flight to Paris.

Some examples

Let’s assume your Venice to Paris flight is delayed by two hours due to a mechanical issue. You miss your connecting flight to Copenhagen, and are rebooked on a later flight to the Danish capital. If you arrive at 7.30pm – it will be a more than 3-hour delay and you are eligible for EC/261 compensation. The fact that your Venice-Paris flight was only delayed by two hours is irrelevant.

Let’s now assume that your flight from Venice to Paris is delayed by four hours due to a mechanical problem. You however still make it on time in Paris for your connecting flight to Copenhagen, where you arrive on time. In this case, you are not eligible for compensation under EC/261, although you are entitled to duty of care – i.e. a meal voucher – in Venice.

Remember that your layover in Paris to change planes is completely irrelevant when it comes to EC/261 compensation as the ticket you bought is actually a contract between you and the airline to fly you from Venice to Copenhagen. Even if you may have planned a long layover as you wanted to quickly hop into Paris for a few hours this is irrelevant when it comes to EC/261.

It might only be different if you manually booked a stopover in Paris (and thus not a connection at the airport) as part of a multi-destination itinerary (for example flying Venice to Paris on Monday, Paris to Copenhagen on Tuesday) as in that case Paris is your first destination and not merely a connecting point on your itinerary.

Abandoning your journey and asking a refund

In certain cases it is possible to ask the airline for a full refund of your ticket in case of a delay. Two conditions must however be met first.

– The delay must be over five hours in length
– The purpose of your journey is meaningless because of the delay

Needless to say, asking for a refund will result in your ticket being made void, you will no longer have the right to use the ticket and to get on the flight. A refund should be paid back in full within seven days.

You will however still be eligible for EC/261 compensation if normal delay requirements which we outlined above are met (and remember that these are triggered if the delay is at least three hours – the five hour requirement only counts for the possibility to ask for a refund).

Purpose of journey

The airline can legally ask you for evidence why your trip has suddenly become meaningless. For example, missing an important business meeting because of a delay which would make the entire journey meaningless is definitely a valid reason and airlines would accept this.

However, saying that your week-long holiday is pointless because of a five hour delay will not get you far with the airline. That said, most airlines will not ask for evidence given it only costs them time, being more likely to simply comply with your wishes.


It can happen that your delay only happens at a halfway point during your trip. If for example you booked an Air France ticket Turin-Paris-London, you might arrive in Paris on time, but find out there that your flight to London is delayed by five hours.

In this case, you do have the right to ask for the reimbursement and to be brought back to your point of departure (Turin) at the earliest opportunity if your original travel plan is no longer relevant due to the delay, for example because you have missed an important business meeting in London.

Travel insurance

Never forget that you should have a good quality travel insurance when taking a flight. Incurred costs which might not be covered by the airline under the provisions of EC/261 may be fully covered by your travel insurance.

Do also note that EC/261 does only apply to delays, being denied boarding, cancellations and downgrade of travel class. Damaged or missing baggage is for example covered by the regulations of the Montreal Convention. Air disasters and personal injury are covered by the Warsaw Convention.

Battling the airline

Some airlines might be very forthcoming when it comes to their obligations under EC/261, while others might be willing but are unable to be of much help due to logistical issues. Then there are airlines which will flat out deny they have any obligation and try to do every trick in the book to prevent having to pay out compensation.

Whatever the case is, be sure to prepare for any eventualities that may happen when you fly to or from Europe. Be aware what your rights are as an airline passenger and what obligations airlines have under EC/261. Some airlines play by the book and are very forthcoming by proactively providing care and giving compensation.

Unfortunately there are airlines which will do everything to get out of their EC/261 obligations, which could result in a prolonged fight to claim your compensation and/or reimbursement of incurred costs.

If that is the case, do read the 7th chapter listed in the index below as it details the steps you should take to get your compensation!

EU Flight Compensation Guide Chapters

1. EU Flight Compensation Guide: All You Need to Know About EC/261
2. Guide: EU Rights and Compensation When Your Flight is Cancelled
3. Guide: EU Passenger Rights and Flight Delay Compensation (current chapter)
4. Guide: EU Rights and Compensation When Your Flight is Rescheduled
5. Guide: EU Rights and Compensation When You Are Denied Boarding
6. Guide: EU Rights and Compensation When You Are Downgraded
7. DIY Guide How To Get Airline Compensation Without Involving a Claim Bureau

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

2 thoughts on “Guide: EU Passenger Rights and Flight Delay Compensation

  • February 24, 2020 at 10:13 am


    I have a ticket with Ryanair going to Italy.

    Will I get any refund if I want to cancel because the country/region
    where I go is under carantine?



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